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Anger: What Makes Me Mad?
by Naomi Deutekom
05/08/04
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Anger: What Makes Me Mad?

“He makes me so mad!” “Why does she get so angry?” “It bugs me when….” Have you ever made a statement like this? We all have, but have you ever wondered what makes you angry?

Most of us look at anger as a negative emotion, but anger can be a good thing too. Did you know anger is called the emotion of self- preservation? Anger is also a secondary emotion. Your anger is a reaction to another primary emotion. Usually, feelings like hurt, fear and frustration come before anger.

If someone says something that hurts your feelings, you may respond with anger. Hurt is the first emotion you feel. Anger is the emotion you use to protect yourself from being hurt more. It is when our reactions to our anger get out of control, or when we are react to old hurts and pain, instead of the present situation, that anger becomes destructive.

Because anger is a protective reaction, you get angry when you feel threatened. When you are hurt by someone’s words, you probably feel an attack against your self-esteem or personal worth. You may believe their remark makes you look dumb, inadequate or unacceptable. It’s hard not to take these remarks personally. You’re hurt and then you get mad, but you’re protecting your personal worth.

Your personal worth is the value you have as a human being. We often believe our value depends on what other people think of us. If you base your worth on the opinions of others, you are more likely to be hurt and angry over what they say.

Fear can also result in anger. Have you ever gotten angry with someone close to you for doing something that could hurt you or someone else? We can use our anger to cover our fear. The parent, who yells at the child for running out in the street, is reacting in anger. The emotion behind the anger is fear.

You may react with anger when your personal needs are threatened. Your personal needs are things like food and clothes, a safe home, or physical wellbeing. We may also feel threatened when our perceived needs are unmet. Perceived needs are the things you want like a new dress, a vacation, or new home. It is important to understand the difference between what you really need and what you want. When your needs are threatened, you might feel hurt, frightened, or both. You may get angry when you don’t get the things you want.

How about frustration? You’re working on a project and can’t get it right. As your frustration level builds, you begin to feel angry. You may lash out at someone else or toss the project aside and stomp off, leaving it for another day.

Sometimes we get angry when of our personal beliefs or convictions are threatened. Have you ever had someone laugh at, or make fun of, something you thought was really important? You were probably hurt or even frustrated. You tried to explain yourself and were still not understood. You may have felt put down or belittled. When we attach our beliefs to our personal worth, and our worth to what others think of us, we can feel hurt and frustrated when others do not agree with us.

Anger is not a pleasant emotion, but sometimes it motivates us to do the right thing or to finish that frustrating project. We can use anger to help us understand ourselves, or we can let it rule our lives and destroy our friendships. Using anger to help you understand yourself is not really that hard.

If you feel angry, ask yourself some questions:

1. What other emotions am I feeling?
-hurt, fear, frustration, something else

2. What happened to cause these emotions?
-a hurtful remark, a project gone wrong, I didn’t get something
I wanted etc...

3. What am I protecting or how do I feel I am being threatened?
-my value, my needs or rights, my personal beliefs

Understanding anger helps you understand yourself, but it takes lots of practice. Get yourself a piece of paper, a notebook, or write in a journal. Write down the three questions. Think of a recent situation that made you angry. Answer the questions as you think about what happened.

It may take some time to get good at this process so don’t give up. Here is another hint to help you. Most of the things that irritate you about others will relate back to the way you feel about yourself. The less you depend on the opinions of others and the more you believe in yourself, the less hurt and anger you will have over what others say and do.

Understanding your fears will also help you understand your anger. Try writing down all the things you are afraid of. It will help you identify problem areas and be more realistic about your fears.

Know what you believe. Writing out your beliefs can be helpful. Study your beliefs and understand why you believe what you do. Hold strong convictions and don’t let others sway you from them, but remember everyone has the right to his or her own opinions. You don’t have to push your convictions on them. They may react to your convictions with their own anger. Discussing beliefs is a good thing. It expands your understanding of others and can even strengthen your own beliefs.

No one wants anger to control them. Following these steps can help you control you anger. Did you know that no one makes you angry? Anger is your own reaction. You will never get rid of all your angry feelings, but you can learn to use them in a positive way. Understanding yourself and why you react the way you do will help you gain control of your behaviour and improve your relationships.


Bibliography on request


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Member Comments
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Kim Floyd 05 Jun 2004
This is very helpful information. I've never thought of anger as being a secondary emotion. The next time I get angry, it will certainly make me pause to figure out what the real emotion was that preceded it. Thanks for this information!




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